A research team led by Grégoire Courtine, neuroscientist and laboratory director at École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne, Switzerland has created the first wireless brain to spinal cord interface that has successfully helped two paralyzed rhesus monkeys regain the use of their lower extremities. The brain implant reads impulses that have been previously identified as signals meant for leg locomotion and sends them wirelessly to a second implant at the base of the spine. The signals not only allowed the monkeys to control the movement of their legs, but also roughly compensated for the weight being placed on them.
Researchers are hopeful that these results will pave the way for clinical trials in humans. According to an article in the journal Nature, Courtine’s team has already begun “using a pared-down version of the technology in two people with spinal-cord injury.” Application in humans will be more complex, however, because the signals scientists decoded from the monkey’s spinal cords were gathered before the monkeys’ paralyses.